I’m trying to use Instagram more often, but between work and life, it’s sporadic. I know, I’m just a bit late to the Instagram party.
But, I’m glad I did, because that’s how I found Second Heart Paleo and the person behind it, Megan Horton. At 26 years of age, Megan has had a heart transplant (age 14), and more recently, a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. As I read her bio I thought, this young woman is a warrior. And, she has a sense of humor about the whole thing.
Here’s an excerpt from Megan’s post on Instagram on November 21, after she turned 26.
Thank you all for the birthday wishes! 25 has been an adventure, to say the least…I started out the year celebrating in San Pedro, Belize, my favorite place on earth. This year was full of a lot, including launching my personal blog (Second Heart Paleo), traveling to Cape Town, South Africa (with a layover in Germany), watching so many friends get married (including my brother!!), being in my first real car accident (everyone was fine! and it wasn’t my fault), stepping up my food photography game, experiencing my first hurricane (could have done without that), visiting Chicago (and seeing Hamilton), attending Bedlam (for the first time since graduating) and getting my first tattoo (my pre-transplant EKG and my now EKG). But the one thing I’ve learned this year is I can truly take anything life throws at me.
In Feb. 2017 I was finally (after being sick for 6+ months) diagnosed with Crohn’s (because a heart transplant isn’t enough, right?). In reality, the transplant was nothing compared to the pain of Crohn’s. Not only is it physically painful, but it mentally exhausted me. I am extremely thankful for my parents and friends who helped me get a diagnosis. While I still don’t feel 100 percent some days, I’m better than what I was at this time last year.
25, you’ve been fun and you’ve taught me a lot, but I am so ready for 26 (minus being kicked off my parent’s insurance…) Here’s to another year full of adventure.
Megan graciously agreed to answer some questions for readers. Thank you, Megan!
How did you discover you had Crohn’s?
In short, it took six months of constant stomach pain, two colonoscopies and lots of tears to get a diagnosis. I’d been sick since September of 2016 and finally saw a GI specialist in November. He didn’t think it was Crohn’s at first because “it just doesn’t look like Crohn’s.” I’m used to hearing this because being a heart transplant recipient as well, nothing ever really looks “normal” with me. It wasn’t until my eyes became very irritated (bloodshot, painful to focus and sensitivity to light) that my GI doc finally agreed it was Crohn’s.
What is currently helping you keep your Crohn’s under control?
Currently, Remicade is kind of helping and eating paleo helps as well. I know I’m not 100 percent and hope to get there someday. I’d love to get off Remicade and control my Crohn’s with diet alone, but at this point in my life, it hasn’t been doable.
Does Crohn’s affect the health of your heart, or have an impact on it in anyway?
My first question to my GI doc when I was diagnosed was “how does this affect my heart?” My heart has always been my number one health issue, so it’s hard to have to split my concerns between two different illnesses. Currently, my Crohn’s does not affect my heart. I had my GI and transplant doctor talk to make sure they were on the same page with medications and treatment plan. Remicade is safe for my heart and for transplant, I’m on a low dose of prednisone, so that could possibly be helping my Crohn’s as well. The only issue I’ve had is my GI doc told me to take probiotics, so I started them then let my transplant team know…apparently probiotics aren’t good for transplant recipients with low immune systems since it’s releasing so much bacteria at once, there is a chance the bacteria can overgrow and cause problems.
When I read your blog and the work you do for Texas Children’s Hospital, I sense an amazing person with a love for life. Yet, you’ve had a lot to deal with, already, and you’re only 26. What feeds your well of strength and energy?
This is a hard question for me to answer. Heart and transplant wise, I’ve never known anything different. I was born with a heart condition, had multiple surgeries growing up, and then had my transplant at age 14. I really didn’t know anything other than doctors appointments and taking daily medications.
I will say, I had to find a lot of strength and learn to lean on people when I received my Crohn’s diagnosis. I had many “why me?!” days and a lot of tears, but it’s something I’ve learned to deal with, one day at a time. I lean on my family and friends a lot when I’m feeling stressed or sick. I’ve learned it’s ok to turn down friends if I think I need a day to rest. It’s been hard because I’m definitely a typical millennial who has major FOMO (fear of missing out) and Crohn’s made me miss out on a lot at first. But now, I’m realizing how lucky I am. I’m lucky to be alive and be able to share my story with others. It’s not an easy road, but taking it one day at a time and learning I have the strength to take life’s curveballs has made me stronger in the end.
Can you share a favorite recipe with readers?
I have two I can’t choose between. When it finally starts getting “cold” (aka anything below 75 in Texas), I love making this cauliflower and zucchini soup from The Adventures of Bob and Shan. It’s delicious and great for leftovers. A lot of times, I end up taking it to work for lunches. Second, is shredded buffalo chicken. It’s a staple in our house. Normally, we’ll set the crockpot Sunday morning, let it cook all day, eat it for dinner and then eat the leftovers for lunches during the week. I love it over salad and Steven (my boyfriend) loves to put it on potatoes or tacos.